Are there non-verbal signals of guilt?

Eglantine Julle-Danière, Jamie Whitehouse, Alexander Mielke, Aldert Vrij, Erik Gustafsson, Jérôme Micheletta, Bridget M. Waller

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Guilt is a complex emotion with a potentially important social function of stimulating cooperative behaviours towards and from others, but whether the feeling of guilt is associated with a recognisable pattern of nonverbal behaviour is unknown. We examined the production and perception of guilt in two different studies, with a total of 238 participants with various places of origin. Guilt was induced experimentally, eliciting patterns of movement that were associated with both the participants’ self-reported feelings of guilt and judges’ impressions of their guilt. Guilt was most closely associated with frowning and neck touching. While there were differences between self-reported guilt and perception of guilt the findings suggest that there are consistent patterns that could be considered a non-verbal signal of guilt in humans.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0231756
Number of pages27
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2020


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